It’s been thirty-two years since the Gelaendewagen (“overland vehicle”) debuted, and it just keeps getting better with age. New utility vehicles designed with on-road comfort as the top priority have left the G-class without peer. It rides on rigid axles with an all-wheel-drive system that uses a two-speed transfer case and three electronically locking differentials to provide world-class off-road ability. In fact, when the world ends, we fully expect cockroaches will emerge from the rubble driving G-class SUVs. Its military roots may be obvious when you look at the underbody, but the G-class delivers an exceptional interior just like you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz. Ten-way heated and ventilated power seats, dual-zone climate control, and a Harman/Kardon stereo are standard. In three decades of production, the formidable G-class has received relatively few updates. There’s surprisingly little rear-seat room for such a big vehicle. The slow-acting recirculating-ball steering is either endearingly retro or annoying, depending on your viewpoint. The door handles are difficult to operate, and the doors are difficult to close completely once you’re inside the cabin. With the supercharged AMG variant discontinued, the only model remaining is the G550, which is still frighteningly quick thanks to a 382-hp V-8 that emits a burly growl. Some of its rivals might be more comfortable to drive, but with its old-school credibility, boxy good looks, and extreme off-road capability, the Gelaendewagen still reigns supreme.

Drive: 4-wheel

Trim level: G550

Body style: SUV, 5-passenger

Engine: 5.5L V-8, 382 hp, 391 lb-ft

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Passenger volume: 124.0 cu ft

Capacities: Towing 3500 lb; cargo (rear seats
up/down) 45.2/79.5 cu ft

The rolling contradiction that was the G55 AMG–an ultracapable off-roader with sticky street performance tires–is dead. While it can’t take the G55’s place, a new Edition Select option preserves some of the unique visual cues. It features flared AMG fenders, side exhaust pipes, carbon-look side molding, and a two-tone, black-and-porcelain interior with contrasting stitching and special emblems.

Modern safety equipment is scarce on the G-class, although it does have the basics, including ABS; front, front and rear side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; and tire-pressure monitoring.

All: 11 mpg city/15 mpg highway

  • Hard-core off-roading ability
  • Sumptuous interior
  • Classic style
  • Coupe has humble roots
  • Unpolished road manners
  • Exceptionally thirsty
  • Costs as much as a tank

Not so much an SUV as a tank.

  • Infiniti QX56
  • Land Rover LR4
  • Land Rover Range Rover
  • Lexus LX570

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